In Fiji, agriculture continues to be the backbone of the economy with farmers engaging in commercial, semi-commercial and majority subsistence farming.
There are however factors affecting the production of farmers with some at a disadvantage economically due to their remote locations, road access, poor connections and climatic conditions.
These areas have agro-ecological conditions that offer potential for growth and improvement and due to factors affecting them, supply response to growing demand for domestic produce has been weak.
In early 2014, the Fijian Government requested the assistance of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the financial institution of the United Nation, in the funding of a project in Fiji.
The designed project was to promote the growth of the agricultural sector in ways that would reduce hardships for producers, especially those living in remote areas such as the highlands, to overcome constraints and tap unrealized potential for development.
Thus the formation of the jointly finalized investment entitled – ‘Fiji Agricultural Partnership Project’ (FAPP) jointly funded by the Fijian Government and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) with the Ministry of Agriculture as the lead project agency.
Engaging with the goal of reduced hardship in remote rural communities, FAPP aims to reduce hardship in remote rural communities of Fiji engaging small-scale producers in sustainable farming and establishing business partnerships in remote areas, particularly in the highlands.
Small-scale remote farmers and many other actors along the agricultural value chains face structural constraints in marketing, transporting, handling and processing.
These are worsened by weak and mistrustful relationships amongst market players resulting in the agricultural sector’s failure to expand together with the increased costly import of produce that could be grown by Fijian farmers.
Through these factors, FAPP highlights the importance of partnerships between the public and private sector in agriculture and promotes good business partnership in the form of viable commercial relationships amongst market actors.
It implies a vision of the public sector as a partner to the private sector through its actions to create an enabling environment where businesses in the agricultural sector can flourish for the benefit of producers, consumers and the economy at large.
A component of the four year project is on farming as a business for highland communities of Ba, Navosa and Naitasiri and will support 2,000 farming households to move from subsistence farming to market-oriented production.
This introduction will enable them to respond to increased demand for domestic agricultural products and benefit from structural improvements in agri-business value chains.
The reinforcing component of the project includes the public sector capacity to support agribusiness, supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in promoting agribusiness development, engaging with the private sector, improving the enabling environment and promoting agricultural value chains thereby expanding income-earning opportunities for farmers.
Moreover, FAPP’s component is to also strengthen linkages between Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) and rural agricultural producers with the provision of incentive schemes to existing agribusiness SMEs that are willing to invest in expanding business with small scale farmers, particularly those in the targeted highland areas.
The FAPP Project Management Unit based within the Ministry of Agriculture’s Headquarters in Raiwaqa has, since its established partnership, conducted awareness and consultations in all the 41 target villages.
Included is the recruitment of 26 community facilitators (CFs) and these CFs will work with Partners for Community Development Fiji (PCDF) field staff through the project term and are now profiling and registering farmers in their localities.
Other activities completed under the project includes the formation of district cluster forums, inter-cluster forums and project cluster forum which are now called the Highland Farmers forum, which was held at Nanoko village in the district of Navatusila in Navosa this year.
These are all in the Fiji Agricultural Partnerships Project’s aim to support smallholder farmers in Fiji, take advantage of and respond to the strong in-country demand for domestically produced agricultural products and develop farming as a business.